Over the previous two blog pieces, we have looked at a series of ways of how to get out of a sticky situation. At some point in a story, your main character will come against a spot of bother and it is up to you, as the writer, to get him/her out of that predicament. For here, a ‘sticky situation’ is defined as:
- In some kind of prison;
- When the authorities are closing in on the main character;
- On the defensive (badly) in a skirmish or battle;
- In need of proving himself/herself worthy;
We have looked at how to get out of prison and what to do when the authorities are after your main character. This final blog piece on the topic will conclude what to do when your central protagonist is on the defensive in battle and/or in need of proving himself/herself worthy.
(Take note, though, that as a rule it has to be the POV Character that comes up with the idea to get himself/herself out of his/her predicament. This is because the POV Character is the one with the agency.)
On The Defensive In A Skirmish Or Battle
Often in fantasy and fiction, the main character will face a situation whereby it’s backs against the wall in a fight, whether in a skirmish or a battle. How to get out of a sticky situation like these?
C – Have Friends Arrive In The Nick of Time
When fortunes take a turn for the worse, and the heroes are on the verge of defeat, they would be forgiven for praying for a miracle… in the form of friends turning up to save them. With their armies.
Again, as per the previous blog piece, regarding secondary characters saving the central protagonist, it is not recommended. (This is because it takes away agency from the main character.)
That is, unless the friend is a POV Character, or a non-POV Character comes at the behest of another POV Character.
Example – The Knights of The Vale Save Jon Snow
Season 6 Episode 9 has one of the most iconic battles in fantasy history in the form of the Battle of the B*******. As the battle unfolds (horrifyingly), Jon Snow and his allies are surrounded and being crushed by the Bolton forces.
But then the Knights of the Vale come from over the hill to ride to the rescue. They arrive upon the request of Sansa Stark, a POV Character.
D – Aid From The Dead
Like with magic, having the dead suddenly arrive to save the day is not ideal. Indeed, it should not be a first resort as a solution to a problem for writers. More than anything, it can come across as a Deus Ex Machina that can make a reader feel cheated.
Nevertheless, it has been done before and with great success. Thus, there are two ways that writers can use the dead when thinking about how to get out of a sticky situation:
- Bring back the dead; or
- Raise the dead.
Example for Bring Back The Dead – Avengers: Endgame
In the epic, final battle in Endgame, the remaining Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk) take on the villainous Thanos. But without success.
In fact, Thanos is readying his army to crush the remaining Avengers. But then Dr Strange, the Ravagers, Scarlet Witch, and the armies of Wakanda and Asgard appear; all of whom had disintegrated/died in the previous film. This gives the Avengers hope again. It leads Captain America to say his golden, nostalgic one-word line – “Assemble.”
Example for Raise The Dead – The Return Of The King
In The Return Of The King, Minas Tirith is being besieged, bombarded and broken by the armies of Morder. Aragorn and King Théoden of Rohan are on the way with more men. But Aragorn knows that King Théoden does not have enough men to save Minis Tirith from the wrath of Sauron.
Elron of Rivendell then appears. With a little convincing, he convinces Aragorn to travel to the Paths of the Dead and recruit the Dead Men of Dunharrow. He does it. Subsequently, it is the dead who turn the tide of battle. The dead going over the orcs surrounding and inside Minas Tirith like a wave, washing them away with ease.
Make Your Main Character Worthy
How to get out of a sticky situation? Sometimes, the main character must prove himself worthy in order to be the person he wants to be. Naturally, for writers, this entails getting out of difficult situations. When he succeeds, he will be worthy of everything that comes his way.
Example 1 – Pinnochio (1940)
At the beginning of Disney’s Pinnochio, the Fairy Godmother brings the titular puppet to life. Nevertheless, she adds in the caveat that in order to become a real boy, he must prove himself “brave, truthful, and unselfish.” (This is an impossibly high expectation, but anyway…)
Later on in the narrative, after escaping the horrors of Pleasure Island, Pinnochio returns home. He finds that his father/creator, Geppetto, is gone. Via a note (presumably from the Fairy Godmother), he learns that Geppetto had gone out to search for him and that he was swallowed by a whale named Monstro.
Pinnochio wastes no time in looking for Monstro and rescuing his father. But in saving his father, he makes the ultimate sacrifice and dies.
However, in doing so, he proves himself be “brave, truthful, and unselfish.” Thus, the Fairy Godmother brings him back to life. This time, though, as a real boy to Geppetto’s delight.
Example 2 – Thor (2011)
Near the beginning of Thor, the eponymous character insults his father, King Odin, by calling him weak and a fool. King Odin responds by stripping Thor of his powers and banishing him from Asgard until he has proved himself.
On Earth, when the villainous Loki (Thor’s manipulative step-brother) sends in the Destroyer, Thor offers to sacrifice himself and takes a hit. At this point, Odin (or some other third force) deems him worthy. Thor’s powers are returned to him, so that he can defeat the Destroyer and return to Asgard.
Thank You & My One Year Anniversary
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for reading this blog post, and the previous two on the same topic. I hope you enjoyed reading about how to get out of a sticky situation, and that these tips and examples are useful for you. As ever, if you think I have missed something out, please write in the comments and I will get back to you.
Also, this week marks a year since I started writing my blog! I have thoroughly enjoyed it and to all my readers, I just want to say a massive thank you again. It means the world to me that I have you. I promise many more interesting blog posts over the next year, plus I have some exciting news that I will let you know about in the coming weeks.
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